$540M DOT project to improve NC's railway service

Posted November 20, 2013
Updated November 24, 2013

— Ken Aiman takes the Amtrak Carolinian No. 80 from Cary to Wilson every week for business.

"I get my laptop out, log on to my network and keep on working while I'm on the trip," he said.

He's not alone. More people seem to be taking the train these days.

North Carolina's state-supported Piedmont and Carolinian trains, the North Carolina Department of Transportation says, continue to be among the most rapidly growing in the Amtrak system, setting new ridership and revenue records.

Last year, ridership on the Piedmont service between Raleigh and Charlotte increased 4.7 percent, and revenue increased 8.1 percent, to more than $3.3 million.

Ridership on the Carolinian, which runs once a day between Charlotte and New York City, increased 3.6 percent, and revenue increased by 6.4 percent, to more than $19.8 million.

It's the fourth consecutive year of positive growth for both routes.

That's why the state is investing $540 million of federal funding – from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – in the Piedmont Improvement Program to expand and improve the rail corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte for passenger and freight trains.

Plans include adding two daily trips of the Piedmont service – bringing the total to five daily trips – and building 13 bridges at many railroad crossings to keep drivers and pedestrians safer.

The plan also calls for renovating train stations in Cary, High Point and Burlington and refurbishing and adding passenger rail cars to the fleet.

It also will add 28 miles of track between Greensboro and Charlotte to help trains pass each other and stay on time and will close 23 potentially dangerous railroad crossings.

Currently, projects are underway at Hopson Road in Durham and in Salisbury. Additional projects are set to begin in 2014 and 2015, with a completion date in early 2017.

Passengers like Aiman say more service would be great – anything to avoid a road trip.

"(The train) is much more comfortable," he said.


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  • gercohen Nov 21, 2013

    the part in the story about renovations to the Cary AMTRAK station recites something that happened 2 years ago, it was ther first project funded. There are not MORE renovations planned in cary.

  • AmazedAtThis Nov 21, 2013

    @ thweave - Good point on the Cary station. But that station has gone from non-existent prior to 1997 to being the 5th busiest station in the state, and is trending to surpass Durham in # of boardings soon. This expansion is driven by growth in riders. It's better for folks in Western Wake and points south to use the Cary station as compared to fighting their way into downtown Raleigh just so they can then not find a place to park. There were projections back in 2009-2010 that the line would see these ridership numbers, but had NCRR / Amtrack built the station to higher those projections back then (during the worst of the recession) they would have been spending the $ before they needed to, which would have fed this forum for weeks.

  • Gunny the Racist Nov 21, 2013

    wanna know why you're paying a toll on I-540???? Check this story out....

  • AmazedAtThis Nov 21, 2013

    A person,

    The below is from the NCRR's 2012 annual report:

    'The North Carolina Railroad Company and subsidiary, a North Carolina company, (collectively referred to as the “Company”), owns approximately 317 miles of continuous railroad line extending from Charlotte, North Carolina to Morehead City, North Carolina. The Company’s railroad facilities are operated by Norfolk Southern Railway Company (“NSR”). The State of North Carolina is the sole owner of all the common stock of the Company.'

    So, bottom line, WE (as taxpayers) ultimatley own the NCRR rail lines and they are throwing off a positive cash flow.

    Pesky facts...

  • A person Nov 21, 2013

    A person,

    The tracks in NC are actually owned by the State through the NC Railroad. NS, not CSX, leases these tracks for freight use. NC also owns most of the engines and cars in use here, not Amtrak.

    That would be incorrect, they are in fact owned by CSX

  • thweave Nov 21, 2013

    part of the money will be spent renovating train stations in Cary.....My gosh, they just completely rebuilt that station 2 years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ConservativeVoter Nov 21, 2013

    "Trains in Europe and Japan are amazing, they are positively abysmal here in the USA

    looks like China wins again, thanks a lot TeaParty

    Trains were a problem in this country long before the tea party.

    Passenger trains would have gone out of business in the 1970's if it wasn't for Amtrak being created.

    Congress was controlled by the Democrats from 1945 until the 1980's.

    Blame the Democrats who were responsible for the decline of passenger rail in this country.

  • IndependentAmerican Nov 21, 2013

    NCDOT reports "On the Piedmont route, ridership climbed 4.7 percent to 170,266, while revenue jumped 8.1 percent to more than $3.3 million." If they triple ridership after spending the 540 million, and want to recoup the cost in 10 years, the cost per ticket will increase by $88.00, not exactly an incentive to boost ridership three times. Also, when has any government project (especially DOT) been constructed within the initial estimate? It happens, but rarely; its sometime comes in at double the cost.

  • androiddj Nov 21, 2013

    Trains in Europe and Japan are amazing, they are positively abysmal here in the USA

    looks like China wins again, thanks a lot TeaParty

  • Mo Blues Nov 21, 2013

    I want to add, in spite of my skepticism about their future in America, I LOVE trains. I prefer trains for my travel in the NE corridor, and my wife and I have traveled all over Europe by rail. That said, Eurpore has both the geography and infrastructure to support train travel. We don't.

    When you ride by train in Eurpore, you can easily get around most cities and towns after you get there. For most US cities and towns, you really need a car once you arrive.